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Autism spectrum

How students with Asperger´s face university?

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The National Autistic Society (NAS) informs us that Asperger´s is "a form of autism that affects how a person makes sense of the world, processes information and relates to other people". People with the condition struggle with social interaction. Things we take for granted, such as being able to read body language or empathise with others, are difficult for them.

Around 1 in 100 children have an autistic spectrum disorder in the UK, but nobody knows how many go on to higher education. Many adults with Asperger´s are undiagnosed, and that´s why it´s important to raise awareness. University is a very daunting prospect for those who may not understand why they act differently; a diagnosis can bring reassurance and proper support.

Asperger´s is at the "high-functioning" end of the autism spectrum, and individuals that have the condition often excel in a certain area, such as mathematics or science. Richard Brownless studied mathematics at Oxford University. He says: "My very literal, logical and systematic thought processes were instrumental in helping me succeed in my course."

The noise and disorder of student halls make some students with Asperger´s opt to live alone.

Matthew Nielson is an illustration student at Hereford College of Art. "I chose to live alone because I knew, after my years in Headlands and Farleigh [specialist education provisions], that shared houses were not for me," he says. "I would have eventually lived by myself anyway, though I´m not quite sure when – it may have been a year or two later on."

The NAS is raising awareness and teaching both lecturers and peers to recognise the traits of Asperger´s syndrome. Matthew says: "A lot of the students didn´t know I had AS. But they are all very good with it." You can download the NAS´s guide to assisting AS students.

We should all learn to embrace the differences that come with Asperger´s syndrome – there is widespread speculation that a number of geniuses, Einstein and Newton included, had the condition.

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